The ‘Hydrogen Olympics’ Lit a Torch for the Clean Fuel’s Future

July 30, 2021

Before they were postponed to this year, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were billed by some as the “Hydrogen Olympics” because of plans to power much of the event’s infrastructure with the clean-burning gas. The Olympic Village, home to the athletes during the Games, was slated to run on it. One hundred hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered buses and 500 hydrogen-powered cars were supposed to transport competitors and staff between venues. Even the iconic Olympic torch and cauldrons were set to be lit with hydrogen-powered flame. The Olympics, organizers and stakeholders said, would be a focal point for Japan’s serious aims to boost hydrogen use and become carbon-neutral by 2050.

But reports indicate these initial goals were scaled back for reasons that are currently unclear. Although the Summer Olympic Games’ use of hydrogen might not be as widespread as planned, Japan still is serious about its plans to shift to a system based on the gas, says Keith Wipke, a hydrogen and fuel cell researcher at the U.S.’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “I certainly have seen no indications that Japan or any other country has backed off on their quite ambitious aspirations for hydrogen,” he says. “If anything, I think they have doubled down on it because they realize, just looking at what’s going on around in the environment, climate change is happening. And we’re not acting quick enough.”

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